William Ayers Goes To Court… For Academic Freedom
University of Illinois – Chicago Professor William Ayers filed suit today against the University of Wyoming for barring him from speaking on campus.
Readers will probably remember that a few weeks ago a scheduled lecture by Ayers was canceled at the University of Wyoming when the sponsoring faculty organization pulled out amidst controversy and threats of violence. After the event was canceled, students who were frustrated that Ayers would no longer be coming to campus attempted to rent a space to bring him themselves. They were told by University Legal Counsel that Ayers would not be allowed to speak anywhere on campus under any circumstances. No justification for this ban has yet been given.
While it is regrettable that the original sponsor rescinded their invitation, the revelation that the University of Wyoming has now banned Ayers from campus shows a much more blatant disregard for the free exchange of ideas. The Casper-Star Tribune rightfully points out that it also flies in the face of UW President Tom Buchanan’s defense of a speech by former Vice President Dick Cheney on the grounds of academic freedom.
Ayers is being represented by Denver based lawyer David A. Lane who should be familiar to academic freedom advocates as the attorney who represented Colorado University professor Ward Churchill during his wrongful termination suit.
The incident appears to be a clear case of the University of Wyoming bowing to outside pressure to restrict the views of one speaker. We hope that the courts see the issue the same way, and will be watching to see what kind of justification the University eventually comes up with for its actions.